Heading into Friday night's game against Sharon at the Nixon Gymnasium, the undefeated Oliver Ames girls' basketball team hadn't seen many tight games.
Case in point: The Tigers were coming off an eye-popping 75-20 win at Milford on Tuesday.
Friday, however, proved to be a much different story.
After playing from behind for much of the game, OA squeaked past the Eagles, 45-43 to take an important Davenport Division win. OA improved to 8-0 on the year while Sharon dropped to 3-3.
"I’m glad because we need games like this to really define who we are," OA coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook said. "You really need to be able to challenge yourself and be able to handle yourself in these kinds of situations. We were down by as many as five and that’s important in terms of growth."
Aside from a small stretch to start the game, the Tigers were down until point guard Asia Mitchell hit a jump shot with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter. The Tigers ended the first quarter down 13-10 and the first half down 26-21.
Sharon was unable to get past a revamped Tigers defense in the third quarter, however. Making adjustments and mixing in a full-court press, OA outscored Sharon 13-7 in the period to take the lead for good.
"That was what we talked about at halftime," Clement-Holbrook said. "Part of the game plan was to not allow them to run their offense to the right because that’s where they’re the strongest. So, we needed to get a better sense of jumping out on the ball and forcing it to the left. They’re all right-handed shooters and from a mechanical standpoint it’s a lot harder to try to get the shot off from the left. We weren’t as consistent with that as we needed to be and in the third quarter we really started to get the hang of it."
Sharon coach Kate Horsmann was proud her team put up a strong fight against the undefeated Tigers, but disappointed the Eagles couldn't get it done down the stretch.
"We played well but there are so many little things that we don’t do well enough," Horsmann said. "We make so many mistakes at critical times and we just have to get better at it. This is our third close game that we’ve dropped."
Sharon had the help of Andrea Bender, who led all scorers with 20 points.
"I will say this about Andrea – a lot of times all she does is play offense," Horsmann said. "Tonight, she played a great all-around game. Everyone is going to see that Bender scored a lot of points, but she really played great defense and she rebounded well. I think this is her best game of the year."
The Eagles were also able to subdue OA's top scorer Caitlyn Abela, holding her to 12 points, which is a quiet night by her standards.
Horsmann gave the credit to senior captain Katie Lowerre for her defense on one of the league's best players.
"It was really mostly Katie and what she did," she said. "Everyone always talks about points but Katie is a terrific all-around player."
OA countered with 14 points from Michaela Lievi and a well-rounded team effort on both offense and defense. Senior point guard Asia Mitchell added 9 points and senior Nicole Ellis added 6.
It was Ellis' work on defense, however, that helped most in toppling the Eagles.
"Kristen Ellis did a great job defensively," Clement-Holbrook said. "She was just right where she had to be when she had to be there. She’s tremendous in terms of deflections and turning that into something. She helped us out of a couple of pickles on both ends actually."
The Tigers will be at home again Tuesday night to take on North Attleboro. Sharon will be home Tuesday against King Philip.